Israeli startup Diptera.ai raised a $3 million seed round to use AI to fight the growing threat of mosquitos, insects that spread deadly diseases and viruses like malaria, Zika, dengue, and yellow fever, according to US tech publication VentureBeat.
Trust Ventures led the funding round, with participation from existing investors IndieBio and Fresh.fund, as well as new investors.
The Jerusalem-based company uses computer vision and eco-friendly technology to make it easier to control mosquito populations using the sterile insect technique, which sends sterilized male mosquitos to mate with female mosquitos, Diptera.ai CEO Vic Levitin told VentureBeat.
“We think we can disrupt the $100 billion pest control market,” Levitin said, noting that many other pest control methods are toxic to both humans and the environment.
Diptera.ai works for a range of insects, including household and agricultural pests. The company is starting with mosquitoes, however, because it’s a “rapidly growing problem with no effective solution to date,” VentureBeat reported.
The firm has technology in the testing stage now and it plans to offer an affordable subscription service for its “highly effective and eco-friendly biological pest control method” of sterilization.
Diptera.ai was founded in March 2020 by Ariel Livne, Elly Ordan, and Levitin. In October 2020, the team graduated from the IndieBio Accelerator, and it now has 10 employees.
The seed round should enable the company to finish its pilot, which could grow into a product launch, VentureBeat reports. Levitin said they’ve raised enough money to prove its concept, but the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) will likely have to approve the solution.
“Just like the cloud disrupted the computing industry with affordable, on-demand computing power, Diptera.ai disrupts pest control with an affordable SIT-as-a-service,” said Levitin, “Instead of building and maintaining insect production factories, customers will subscribe to our service to receive shipments of sterile males ready for release.”
The sterile insect technique (SIT) is a biological pest control method in which mostly government-run entities release overwhelming numbers of sterile male insects into the wild. These sterile males mate with female mosquitoes, which are the only mosquitoes that bite humans and animals. The female mosquitoes only mate once in their lifetimes, but they each lay hundreds of eggs. If they can be tricked into mating with sterile males, then they won’t create offspring.
“The sterile insect technique is the most effective,” Levitin said. “Mosquitoes mate once as females in their lives. If they mate with sterile males, then it suppresses the population.”